“Wouldn’t it be lovely to wake each day with the thought: God has given me time to enjoy and serve him with today and I’m looking forward to that?”
From the first chapter Fuller has us thinking about the time we have, how we use it and the relentless feel of weariness and burden in our lives. Whether it’s because we try to follow religious rules, we feel the need to prove ourselves, we try to meet other’s expectations and needs, or we are trying to be secure; most of us feel the burden of a lack of time and a busyness that pervades life.
Then he takes us through some ideas about time – how we are made to rest and how we must take time to trust God. He points out the two easiest ways to waste time – in idleness or distraction, and in focussing on the wrong things.
He then develops his framework – essentially that we can operate in freedom so long as we stay within two boundaries. The low boundary (the floor to obedience), which we don’t want to drop below – leads to neglect – not doing what we should be doing. The high boundary (the celling to obedience) leads to idolatry, when we start valuing the thing itself rather than the gift that God has given. Before he gets to the specifics of work, family, church and leisure and how all might operate within his framework, he gives some guiding points:
- We are to serve the Lord in every area of life
- The ‘ideal diary’ doesn’t exist – life exists in different ages and stages where different commitments are required
- Christians have more commitments that their peers. This is really helpful to acknowledge and accept.
- We need to choose our role models carefully. You might be better not choosing to follow the person who seems to be able to do it all.
- You can’t do everything you want.
- We need to pray for wisdom.
Some comments that I found helpful throughout:
- Busyness has (wrongly) become a mark of success both in secular and church circles.
- All our work must be neither ‘eye-pleasing’ (obedience only when being watched) or’ ‘people-pleasing’ but ‘Lord-pleasing’.
- Work idolatry can sometimes be seen in the desire to find meaning in our work. But, this is something only a very small, privileged part of society can even consider. Most people just have to work a job, whatever job they have. It could be a warning to those who really love their jobs (especially those in the caring and serving professions that consider their jobs ‘noble’) that it could become an idol if you find your meaning in your work.
- When we consider ‘leisure’ time there are numerous categories that are different for different people. For many households, housework and home management has to come out of ‘leisure time’. But that is different to reading for pleasure or going to a sports game. Similarly, the person who cooks for enjoyment will see that as leisure time, much more so that the person who regularly caters for large groups, but does not find it refreshing. He concludes there is a lot of freedom in how we should view leisure time, as long as we are being neither negligent or idolatrous.
This book contains many of the same ideas that were in Tim Chester’s The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness, which was much more detailed, and the shorter Crazy Busy, by Kevin de Young. If you read either of those, there is not much new here, but the regular reminder of these truths every few years is well worth it. For me, the most helpful part was his framework of freedom lying between neglect and idolatry and how we can think about applying that to our lives.
So, all in all, a helpful, wise book with sound principles and some good examples of how it could look in real life. We know many people who have made major changes to their lives as a result of reading this book.